Boss Management 101

Businesswoman leading project discussion during morning meeting in office
Businesswoman leading project discussion during morning meeting in office

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A positive and mutually respectful relationship with your boss not only makes going to work more pleasant, it can have a significant impact on your job performance and career. But some managers make this very challenging. Many bosses have never learned effective managerial and leadership skills, so average to bad managers are more the norm than the exception.

In today's world, a manager's workload is likely to encompass one that was shared by three or four people twenty years ago. Between that and the fact that many leaders lack effective time-management skills, chances are your boss is overextended and overwhelmed. But regardless of your boss's deficiencies, you are ultimately the one who's responsible for your day-to-day performance and results.

Many people feel powerless to improve their relationship with an incompetent boss. But while it takes two people to create an optimal relationship, it only takes one to produce change. By implementing new behaviors with your boss, you can significantly improve your own productivity and achieve better outcomes.

Below are some tips on how you can improve communication with your boss, stay focused on the right priorities, and be more effective at work.

Meet regularly. It's best to meet in-person (or Skype, if in another location) every week for at least 20-30 minutes. If your boss won't do this, email him a weekly summary of current activities and projects, and include any questions or feedback you need from him. Be sure to keep electronic copies of all emails.

Keep a To Do List. Organizing it by categories makes things easier to find and track. Be sure to have a category for your boss so you're always prepared with issues and updates to discuss in your weekly meeting.

Submit a "Completions" list. Email a bullet list of all your completions and accomplishments to your boss every month. Be sure to keep electronic copies so you can cut and paste your accomplishments into your annual performance review (and your boss can do the same).

Disclose important issues. Make sure your boss is the first to know when there's a serious problem. You don't want her hearing about it from someone else. By bringing it to her attention (and your ideas for solutions), you're demonstrating accountability, respect, and loyalty.

Know what matters. If your boss is a numbers person, quantify your results. Know what kinds of things are most important to him. For example, if he's a customer-is-first kind of person, frame your results in terms of their benefits to customers.

Mirror her communication style. Convey information in the way your boss likes it, so she's more likely to retain it. Be aware of detail preferences. Some people like a lot and some people like less. A good way to figure out what your boss prefers is to observe how she communicates with you.

Learn to set boundaries. Say yes to the things that matter most to your boss. When asked to do something that you don't have time to do, ask about his priorities and what you should postpone in order to complete the new task or project on time.

Toot your horn. When you do something that has a positive impact, let your boss know. You can leave a voicemail announcing a project has been completed. Sending a congratulatory e-mail to your team and copying your boss on it will highlight your success and leadership skills.

Build a relationship. If all things are equal, your boss will cater to the person she likes the best. Talk about what interests her. Ask her for advice on something related to work. If you are very different than your boss, focus on finding common ground in your conversations.

Seek new responsibilities. Find improvement opportunities in your department before your boss notices them. Being proactive and taking responsibility demonstrates not only your foresight, but also your willingness to take initiative.

Lauren Mackler is a renowned coach, speaker, educator, and consultant. She is the author of the international bestseller, "Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life", co-author of "Speaking of Success" with Jack Canfield and Stephen Covey, and the creator of the groundbreaking Illumineering Coaching method. Visit her website at laurenmackler.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.